Cowboy Programming Game Development and General Hacking by the Old West

July 6, 2008


Filed under: Game Development — Mick West @ 8:42 am

UPDATE Nov 24th 2010: Checkword 1.4 is in now the Apple approval queue, and will fix the problem with no keyboard, as well as adding a “Words With Friends” specific word list, and using less memory thanks to better list compression. Hopefully should be getting out in a few days. Sorry I did not test it before iOS4.2 was released. My bad!

CheckWord is an iPhone/iPod Touch application that checks if a word is good or bad in games like Scrabble. Quicker than using a dictionary, easier than using a computer. Ideal for for both casual and tournament use. Now with an added word generator and wild-card pattern matcher.


– Uses the latest official TWL or SOWPODS word lists
– TWL 2006, with 178,691 words for North America
– SOWPODS 2006, with 267,751 words for international play
– No internet connection needed, so you can be in airplane mode
– Instant results, just type in the word and hit the search button
– Judge multiple words at once, according to tournament rules.
– Generate words from your letters and a board letters
– Solve crosswords by entering in the known letters
– Make anagrams, find words and make word lists with wildcard searches


The main purpose of CheckWord is to see if words are good or bad for play in Scrabble and other similar games. Because of this it does not include proper nouns (names and other words that are normally capitalized), such as “MICHAEL” or “ARIZONA”. However, some proper nouns have other uses, such as “HOLLY” (a tree), and “TEXAS” (a part of a steamboat), and so are included. I did not make the word lists, they are official lists created by various Scrabble associations.

To check a word, type it in and touch “Search”. You will be told if the word is “Good” or “Bad” to play in Scrabble.

To clear the display, just touch “Search” again.

In the options, you can select “Use ‘Acceptable'” to change the messages to “Acceptable” and “Unacceptable”, as this is the language used in official Scrabble tournaments.

If you enter multiple words from a single play, like “AT AA TAN”, then CheckWord will report GOOD or ACCEPTABLE only if all the words are correct. If one or more words are incorrect, then CheckWord will report BAD or UNACCEPTABLE. The incorrect word will not be highlighted, according to official Scrabble tournament rules.


To toggle to MakeWord, touch the “MakeWord” button in the top left. Use the same button to return to CheckWord. In both CheckWord and MakeWord you can press the ‘i’ in the top right to go to the options and info screen.

You can enter the “Letters” in your rack and/or a “Pattern” to fit those letters to. Use the ‘.’ for a blank tile or empty space, and use ‘@’ to represent an unknown number of letters in the pattern (see below for examples).

Letters Only:
If you only enter Letters, then MakeWord will make all the possible words it can make with those letters (and blanks, if you enter any). Longest words will be shown first, including any full-length anagrams.

Letters Only Examples:
RETAINS = All words you can make with the letters of RETAINS (there are 262 in TWL, 343 in SOWPODS)
RETAI.. = All the words you can make with RETAI and two blanks
… = All the three and two letter words

Pattern Only:
If you only enter a pattern, then MakeWord will assume you have enough blanks to make any word that fits that pattern. You would use this to find words that fit a particular pattern of letters, such as in a crossword. You can also make quick word lists for practice. It’s very powerful, but easy to do the simple stuff.

Pattern Examples:
.. = All the two letter words
… = All the three letter words
P..TZ.L = Word with some letters missing (PRETZEL)
THW@ = All words starting with THW
@PS = All words ending in PS
@THP@ = All words that contain THP
THP = Shortcut for @THP@
@.THP.@ = All words that contain THP, but do not start or end with it
PR@NT = All words that start with PR and end with NT
PR…NT = All seven letter words that start with PR and end with NT
JO.. = All four letter words that starts with JO

Letters and Pattern:
If you both letters and pattern, then MakeWord will generate words that fit the pattern using just the letters and blanks you specify. You would use this to fit your rack to a specific place on the board, or to generate more specific word lists.

Letters and Pattern Examples:
RETAINS + @AB@ = All words fitting some letters from RETAINS before, after or around AB
RETAINS + AB = Shortcut for the above
RETAINS + @AB = All words fitting letters from RETAINS before AB
RETAINS + AB@ = All words fitting RETAINS after AB
RETAINS + @.AB.@ = All words fitting RETAINS around AB
RETAINS + …. = All four letter words made from RETAINS
Q… + …. = All four letter words containing a Q (A ‘Q’ with three blanks, fitted into four spaces)
AAA.. + ….. = Five letter words with 3 ‘A’s
NOOMTRS + A…….Y = A nine letter word with your rack between A and Y (ASTRONOMY)
A… + G…. = A five letter word starting with G that contains an A

If you have any problems with CheckWord, then post a comment here, or email me at:

If you have a problem or suggestion, then a great way to letting me know what the issue is is to take a screenshot by pressing the home and power buttons together. The screen will flash white, and a screenshot will be saved in your photo roll. Then email it to me at: with a note explaining the problem/suggestion.

Possible future features:

  • French, Spanish and other language support.

I’m interested in supporting other language, but I need to find appropriate word lists, and possibly some help translating “Enter word(s), good/bad, acceptable/unacceptable”.   Let me know if you can help.


Q: How do I clear the display?
A: Just press search again.

Q: How do I restrict the length of words in MakeWords?
Enter a patter with the same number of dots as the length of word you want.   Add a ‘@’ to make that the minimum length.


  1. Where did you get the TWL and SOPWODS lists? I have an application that I’ve written that you can type in the tiles in your tray and can give you all the words that can be spelled with it.

    Comment by Enuratique — July 10, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  2. From here:

    Comment by Mick West — July 10, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  3. This is SO much better than my own webapp effort.


    1) When judging plays, allow multiple entries separated by spaces – then report the whole play as acceptable or unacceptable. Do not indicate which words (if any) failed. This is closer to how live tournaments are judged.

    2) Word find and anagramming modes would be nice.

    3) I would also like to see a companion “scorecard” app. I did my own web-app version, it works but it’s ugly.


    This is a Scrabble-specific scorecard app – in addition to keeping score the keypad has buttons to open Judge and Wordfind pages — framing content from :(

    I’d be happy if someone else liked this idea and could do a nicer looking job of it :)

    Comment by Lee Rimar — July 12, 2008 @ 6:22 am

  4. Oh, if anyone want’s to try that scorecard mentioned in my last note, here are some of the less than intuitive instructions:

    – Touch the player name captions to customize them.

    – Enter scores on the keypad, numbers appear in the top field.

    – Touch the number field UNDER each player name to award them the score.

    A running tape shows up beneath the keypad, you can flick down to review it.

    Comment by Lee Rimar — July 12, 2008 @ 6:25 am

  5. Thanks for the suggestions Lee, I’ll definitely do the first one – great idea!

    Comment by Mick West — July 12, 2008 @ 6:26 am

  6. […] it will also generate words from rack tiles. Apple App Store URL: Price: FREE Application URL: Cowboy Programming » CheckWord __________________ iPhone Dev SDK | | Kill The […]

    Pingback by CheckWord by Cowboy - iPhone Dev SDK Forums — July 16, 2008 @ 7:23 am

  7. This is a great program!

    Is there any chance you’d incorporate the anagramming feature that’s been mentioned above? That would make this the ultimate portable Scrabble companion and I think a lot of iPhone/iPod touch users that play Scrabble would use this. I would certainly pay for this if it had a full anagrammer incorporated (like the lampwords program for Palm, or Lexpert).


    Comment by Chris — July 21, 2008 @ 9:46 am

  8. The anagramming and word generation is already done in the version 1.1 update, I just need to get it approved by Apple and up on the App Store. They are having a few technical glitches in getting updates out there. Hopefully it will be out in a week or two.

    It’s going to stay free as well.

    Comment by Mick West — July 21, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  9. That sounds great! I just had a few apps auto-inform me of an updated version, so hopefully Checkwords 1.1 gets upped onto the App Store soon as well!

    Just a quick question… will the 1.1 version have wildcard support?

    Comment by Chris — July 24, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

  10. Yes it will, very nice wildcard and pattern matching. You’ll like it.

    Comment by Mick West — July 24, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  11. Can you please make a SpellChecker? That would be sweet!

    Comment by Matt — July 25, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  12. Matt, you could try the WeDict app.

    What features would you want in spell-checker? I’m afraid there is no way to do stuff like check spelling on emails. It could only check words you type in to the spell-checker, like with checkword, so perhaps not too useful.

    Comment by Mick West — July 25, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  13. I downloaded checkword to my iPod 32gb and it shows on the homescreen but when I touch it, it opens for a few seconds and then closes. What’s up?

    Comment by Kenneth — August 1, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

  14. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to test it on an iPod touch, but I’d assumed it worked, since it got past Apple testing.

    Some people report random crashes with various apps, and it’s not connected to one app in particular. It’s like the app did not fully download or something.

    The first thing to try would be updating to 2.01, which was just released. Hopefully that will fix this bug.


    1) Installing another app.
    2) Removing and re-installing Checkword
    3) Removing and re-installing some other app.

    Comment by Mick West — August 1, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

  15. Bug.
    Try this:

    Letters: RR.....
    Pattern: .....ER

    Finds seven-letter words ending in ER, but they
    don’t all have two or more R’s

    Comment by Michael — August 5, 2008 @ 8:20 am

  16. Not a bug exactly, it’s doing what you asked it. The “Letters” go into the gaps in the pattern, so you are basically asking for “Take any five letters from two ‘R’s and five blanks, and put them before the letters ‘ER’ – hence it could be using five blanks.

    If you want to use all the letters, then make sure that the number of letters is the same as the number of dots in the pattern. Which is five in this case, so you would use:

    Letters:  RR...
    Pattern:  .....ER

    Which gives 25 words (TWL) ending with ER with 3 R’s.

    If you wanted “Two or more R’s”, then you can add another blank to the letters:

    Letters:  RR....
    Pattern:  .....ER

    Which gives 582 words ending in ER with 2 or more Rs

    Comment by Mick West — August 5, 2008 @ 8:31 am

  17. Hi Mick
    Is it possible to describe a multi-word pattern? This would be useful for cryptic crosswords.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 19, 2008 @ 4:55 am

  18. Hi Mark – not at the moment. Can you give me a few examples of the types of patterns you would want?

    Comment by Mick West — August 19, 2008 @ 6:45 am

  19. Hi Mick

    Here are a couple of examples:

    Cryptic crossword clue:
    Though fairly quiet, iron mangle is not as good (8,7)

    Thus would put into CheckWord:
    Pattern: ….R… ……Y

    The answer is INFERIOR QUALITY. I removed the know letters (R & Y) from the Letters and I put a blank in the Pattern to indicate a word break.

    Another example where not sure of one of the letters with an answer (3,6):
    Letters: REILER.
    Pattern: A.. ..T…

    Letters is the word RETAILER and an unknown character (which ends up being T) to give the answer AIR LETTER.

    It may be also nice to have the option of additional dictionary words for Cryptic Crossword use in addition to the Scrabble words but I realise this is going beyond the intent of this application. A source for these words could be The UK Advanced Cryptics Dictionary, I guess me being from Australia, I would like Australian spelling or at least UK spelling. All too much :-).

    Just on another point as a suggestion. In another program I use on my Palm (Wordz), it has the option to put numbers to indicate unknown characters as a form of short hand, so in the above examples you would have:

    Pattern: ….R… ……Y
    Pattern: 4R3 6Y


    Pattern: A.. ..T…
    Pattern: A2 2T3

    I am yet to get an iPhone (or a Touch) but this is definitely a program I am interested in obtaining.


    Comment by Mark Butler — August 19, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  20. Thanks Mark, I’ll certainly have a bash at getting that working for the next update. I’m not sure when that will be though.

    Comment by Mick West — August 19, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

  21. We would like to enter your iPhone App as a candidate for our $5K in free iPhone Advertising giveaway.

    AdMob is the world largest Mobile and iPhone Ad Network ”“ we believe our Ad Network has more iPhone traffic than anybody else in the world (over 60 Million impressions/month and growing fast). We have a reach that extends to over 35% of all mobile web users in the U.S., a presence in over 165 countries, and a have dedicated considerable resources toward growing our iPhone business by working with the best App developers and iPhone publishers . We are already working with 5 of the top 20 Apps and have cleary demonstrated that we can impact downloads and the ability of an App to be featured in the ”˜Top Paid”™ and ”˜Top Free”™ App lists.

    200 iPhone Apps will be selected as winners in our $1 Million giveaway, and we would like to know if we may enter yours. If we get your permission to do so, you are under no further obligation ”“ just provide us with your contact info (ideally including phone) and the name of your App and we will do the rest. Here is our site if you need further info:

    Please contact me with any questions.

    Your Sincerely,

    Fassil Befekadu
    iPhone Partnership Development Group

    Comment by Fassil Befekadu — September 3, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

  22. Hi,

    Being an avid iPhone lover, i went looking for a website/forum where I could read up on all the applications but wasn’t able to find any that were mostly developer based. There are plenty of forums out there that are user based, but these are very difficult to read as many users post many different threads on the same topics.

    After contacting a number of developers and receiving great feedback, the iPhone Apps Forum was created. Why would I create another forum? Well the iPhone Apps Forum is Developer based. There are only single threads per application and they are moderated and supported by the developers themselves. This makes the forum a great place for both developers and users to easily keep up to date on the featured applications and get great support from the developers.

    Although still in the early stages of setting up the forum, the response has been extremely positive. Even from Apple themselves. The custom skin for the forum has only just been finalized and we are  currently adding application threads for those developers who have expressed great interest from the start.

    Some of the benefits of the iPhone Apps Forum are

    For Developers
    – There is no cost involved. At all.
    – A single place to answer questions, respond to comments, receive bug reports and feature requests.
    – Running a forum takes an enormous amount of time. iPhone Apps Forum does the running of the forum for you.
    – Users read the application threads and get answers they would otherwise email you with. Saves you time in support emails.
    – More exposure for your applications.
    – Developers have moderation privileges to edit or delete posts if they feel it is required.
    – Several Moderators in place to combat spam and help keep the forum clean and on topic.

    For Users
    – A single place to get questions answered by the developers of the application.
    – Read about new applications they didn’t know about.
    – Discuss applications with other users.

    But rather then telling you about it, please come and have a look at the forum at I would love to hear your feedback. If you are interested in adding your applications to the forum, please have a read of the following thread and send me the information required. I will have your application threads setup within 24 hours of receiving the information.

    Some of the applications already featured:
    – MyMemory
    – Kyodai
    – Chain Timer
    – Tea Timer
    – MiArtPak
    – Crosswords
    – iFive
    – Word Party
    – Alphonetic
    – Escape Pod
    – DataCase
    – Meet Bubble
    – Spin the Bottle
    – Whack a’ Gopher
    – WikiMe
    – Elevens
    – Elevens Balls

    Look forward to hearing your response to the new forum.

    Roel Wijmans

    Comment by Roel Wijmans — September 15, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

  23. Hi Mike
    As a bit of encouragement, even though I have not yet bought a compatible device, I have purchased Checkword to enable you to further develop it.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 19, 2008 @ 1:10 am

  24. Thanks Mark! Checkword is somewhat on the back burner. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to it soon though.

    Comment by Mick West — October 19, 2008 @ 6:41 am

  25. I would love to buy this app, but I would need the dictionary to be updated to CSW (Collins Scrabble Words), which became effective on May 15, 2007. I use LAMPWords on my Palm at the moment, and it is one of the few remaining reasons I still carry the Palm in addition to my iPhone. If you had the anagrammer and word check with CSW, I would buy it immediately.

    Comment by Arul Inthirarajah — November 29, 2008 @ 6:42 am

  26. Hi Arul, are you sure that CSW is different from the current SOWPODS? I can’t find much information about it.

    Comment by Mick West — November 29, 2008 @ 9:01 am

  27. Hi Mick,

    SOWPODS used to be the de facto standard until 15 May 2007. At that time, it was a combination of TWL (Tournament Word List) used in North America (based on Merriam Webster), and OSWI (Official Scrabble Words International)(based on Chambers), used for tournaments for the rest of the world. This was also used for the World Scrabble Championships. In 15 May 2007, the official dictionary was changed to Collins, and the CSW came into effect (Collins Scrabble Words).
    I have attached two links that you might find useful:

    Hope you will be able to incorporate the CSW !


    Comment by Arul Inthirarajah — December 3, 2008 @ 4:52 am

  28. I added your program to the app directory.

    Comment by Michael — January 23, 2009 @ 1:11 am

  29. […] Galloway on twitter also informed of an iPhone app called CheckWord (iTunes link) developed by Cowboy Programming which performs a very similar thing. It not only verifies if a word someone is trying to use in […]

    Pingback by How to Cheat at Scrabble - The Next Web — March 4, 2009 @ 5:50 am

  30. […] Galloway on twitter also informed of an iPhone app called CheckWord (iTunes link) developed by Cowboy Programming which performs a very similar thing. It not only verifies if a word someone is trying to use in […]

    Pingback by My New Chimerical Kit » How to Cheat at Scrabble — March 4, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  31. Always good quality info from this site!

    Comment by Ray — April 1, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  32. This website has some more info on the CSW word list. And possibly some info on how to download it into your app.

    Its LAMPWords, and is written for the PALM OS. However, I think the CSW word list could be extracted from the website )(pro bono).


    Comment by Arul Inthirarajah — May 6, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  33. Arul,

    I downloaded a CSW word list from

    It is identical to the SOWPODS list that I use, except that the word


    Has been removed from CSW.

    Since that’s the only difference, then I’m afraid it does not seem worth the work to incorporate CSW.

    Comment by Mick West — May 6, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  34. Thanks Mick, I have just purchased the full version after getting your clarification. Great work !

    Comment by Arul Inthirarajah — May 30, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  35. Hi There..Thanks for this great little app. I am having a slight problem that when i generate lists using in the makewords area, if the lists generated is very long, then sometime the app automatically scrolls direct to the bottom.

    This means that there is a lengthy scroll to return to the top. Can i make it default to start at the top of the results every time?

    Any tips or suggestions would be welcome.


    Comment by clabbers — November 15, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

  36. I would like to see check word for android. Heck, I’d like to see scrabble for that matter. Are you working on an android version? It’s wordsmith for me right now:(

    Comment by Lancechop — February 15, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

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